The 5 Second Rule: A Frugal Necessity at Our House

If you’re a mom, you’ve no doubt heard of the 5 second rule: if your kid drops a piece of food on the floor, and you pick it up within 5 seconds, it’s still good to eat. Right?

My 5 Second Rule Story

At our house, we live by the 5 second rule. We have to. You see, I have a picky eater. He’s pictured above. He’s also very charming. And very smart.

At the dinner table, he refuses to eat anything he doesn’t like. Unfortunately for him, I don’t fix many dinners that consist entirely of chocolate and potato chips. This presents a problem for my young son.

Because he would just as soon starve than eat anything nutritious, we’ve had to institute a “you need to eat at least x number of bites” rule. That’s when he pulls out the charm.

He starts to poke his food with the fork. It takes him 5 minutes to get the fork to his mouth, and when it’s finally in the vicinity, he throws back his head with a big grin, closes his eyes, and pretends to try to get the food in his mouth. 99% of the time it lands on the floor.

That’s when the 5 second rule comes into play. Trying hard not to laugh, I pick up the piece of food, put it back on his plate, and let him know that he can now eat the food, plus the germs. Ok, I leave out the part about the germs. But I don’t let him waste the food.

Samantha Bee on the 5 Second Rule

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to The Consumer Queen interview Samantha Bee of the Daily Show about the 5 second rule. First of all, Samantha Bee is incredibly funny. Listening to the call brightened a busy day.

Samantha talked about her own use of the 5 second rule, as well as the results of a study by San Diego State University. The study, funded by Clorox, found that some foods picked up bacteria in less than 5 seconds. To read more about the study, visit

Study or no study, I’m unlikely to give up my 5 second rule ways. I hate wasting food (and wasting the money that paid for the food). Besides, my charming and intelligent son would quickly figure out that dropping food would get him out of eating dinner. And we can’t have that, can we?

72 thoughts on “The 5 Second Rule: A Frugal Necessity at Our House”

  1. I am a firm believer in the 5-second rule; just check for doggy hairs first! Years ago, I was making sandwiches for a baby shower and the entire stack of sandwiches crashed to the floor minutes before I needed to leave. I didn’t have any indoor pets at the time, so I didn’t even have to perform step 2 of the 5-second rule! I did give them a quick look-over anyway, packed them up, and never let the cat out of the bag about my little mishap once I got to the party.:)

  2. My youngest is very very picky. So yes, we do use the 5 seconds rule. If it’s something the kids really like, they don’t care how long it is on the floor. If it’s wet, that is just gross and it goes in the trash.

  3. It depends on what the food is – but about half the time I’ll use the five-second rule and eat whatever was dropped and half the time I’ll just throw it away.

  4. My son, daughter and I had gone to the mall one day and decided to have ice-cream sandwiches as a treat since we had been shopping all day. We walked through the mall while eating our ice-creams. My son and I were finished ours when my daughter dropped hers on the mall floor. My son scooped it up and declared it fit to eat! “5 second rule” he said. He is 15. LOL I was horrified at this and slapped it back out of his hand just as he was going to pop it into his mouth!

  5. I use the 5 second rule too. I do not like to waste anything. I also believe that everyone actually needs a few germs. Thanks,

  6. I only use the “five second rule” with dry food, never anything wet or sticky. I am sure either pick up germs, etc. but the dry food doesn’t bother me as much! If it’s something small I may just leave it for my dogs. :)

  7. We definitely use the 5-second rule. I can sympathize, 2 of my boys are picky eaters. I must say, though, if it’s tuna that lands on the floor, it won’t last 5 seconds. Our two cats get it first!! (And I have found the kids “accidentally” dropping the tuna just for that purpose!!)

  8. Isn’t exposure to germs supposed to build a healthy immune system? And doesn’t over-sanitizing cause allergies? I don’t know, but I don’t have that big a problem if someone eats something off of the floor I keep clean myself. I do lather my kids with hand sanitizer every time we walk into our house.

  9. I try not to think about the germ factor. I was once draining the fat off the start of a pot of chili- 2 lbs ground hamburger, green peppers, onions, garlic. Although I aimed for my over-the-sink strainer, I ended up dumping half the meat into the sink! I quickly scooped it up into the strainer..burning my hand in the process.. When the chili was finally done, I could barely bring myself to eat it. I ended up only eating a little and wasting the majority anyway because I couldn’t stand the thought of “sink chili.” Yuck!

  10. In our house, it’s the 3 second rule.

    Of course, it doesn’t often come into play. Our yellow lab, Pebbles, has an uncanny ear for anything that hits the floor. Before you can bend down and pick it up, she’s got it. We have to be careful she doesn’t get things that are bad for her!

  11. Skip the 5 minute rule and go straight to the, “if you don’t eat your dinner you can go straight to bed rule,” my oldest has never used this option, but my youngest does quite frequently. I always put his plate in the fridge because he will go to bed a 5:30pm but quickly realizes he is hungry and does want to eat his dinner. My mom used to have to eat her dinner for breakfast if she refused to eat it the night before.

  12. I never heard of the 5 second rule until after my children were grown! Could have used that one, especially with my youngest son who was/is still a very picky eater at age 25. jgs0925 at gmail dot com

  13. I don’t eat anything that landed on the floor. I do sympathize with those that have picky eaters though. My 17 year old would not eat meatloaf or a fish stick for years(they still aren’t his favorite) and my 12 year old hates oatmeal(which really sucks for him since its eaten 4 days a week here) or rice. Anyway, the 17 year old eats unbreaded fish now so there is hope that someday that charming son of yours will eat what you put in front of him.


  14. Hi Lynnae! Just found your blog via an old article in the Mail Tribune when I Googled looking for someone local who wrote about couponing! Imagine my surprise to find someone I know!

    We use the 5 second rule – mostly on dry things like crackers and the like. But the testing I like to refer to is what Mythbusters did! They proved that the 5-second rule was a-ok. I think the only thing that even grew any cultures was some bologna or something wet like that.

    See you at URHE!

  15. My grandfather dropped a piece of chicken on the floor almost five years ago to the day. He picked it up and put it back in his mouth, but not before saying “5 second rule!”

    God knows I tried to stop him. “Grandpa,” I said, “That was six seconds – not five!”

    He just laughed at me. Then he chewed up that piece of chicken he rescued from the floor and happily swallowed it.

    Thirty-six hours later he was dead.

    Was it because he left that piece of chicken on the ground for one second too long?

    I’ll never know for sure, but now I only eat food that has dropped on the floor if I am certain it has been there 3 seconds or less.

    You never can be too safe, you know.


    Len Penzo dot Com

  16. We use the “if the dog doesn’t get it first” rule, as many have said. But only at home. And only hard, dry foods, or things that can be rinsed.

    My kids are not picky eaters. I have always allowed them to eat their food or not, their choice. But if they didn’t clean their plates, no seconds of anything (so if they eat all the macaroni but not the broccoli-they can’t get more macaroni). And I never tolerate playing with food or being rude (telling my food is yucky-they can say “I’m not a fan” or “I don’t care for it”-but no insults). And if they do they are promptly sent away from the table. I am a firm believer that this is why my kids aren’t picky eaters. You should watch this episode of “The Doctors”:


  18. We have a three week rule at our house. I hate wasting money… can you tell? My kids goof off at dinnertime so food ends up on the floor. They pick it up and eat it. And they hide candy and sweets in their rooms (I’m not sure where because when I clean their rooms, I don’t find any). Amazingly, they don’t get sick.

  19. Like most of the commentors, I grew up healthy in a dirt-friendly house, and I’m WAY too frugal to give up on a morsel before at least a ten-count. I do have some additional criteria: wet foods must be left to lie, but dry foods are fair game. If the mice haven’t eaten it by the next morning, we probably should pass, too :)

  20. I think that the 5 sec rule is DISGUSTING and I never use it! When something hits the floor, it is trashed! My husband, however, uses the ‘it doesn’t matter how long it is on the floor if I want it’ rule. Yuck!

  21. I always thought it was the 3 second rule. Anyway that’s what I abide by at home. At work we have the 3 inch rule: if it comes within 3 inches of the floor you DO NOT EAT IT!!! Yeah, the floor is kind of disgusting.

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